377 comments

Understand the Drive-Thru and We Can Solve All Problems

cloudforest

Morning sunrise from the front door of my hut.

I’ve been out traveling in Ecuador for the past two weeks, living in the jungle, climbing waterfalls and noting the cultural differences of a country set about 3000 miles South and 30 years back in time from my own. Every time I settle into life in a new place, I’m always amazed at how many objects and luxuries I have left behind, and yet how little I miss them.

Eventually the adventure came to an end, and with my eyes and ears still attuned to the quiet of the rainforest, I marveled at the enormous highways and parking lots and suburbs of Atlanta as I flew in for a layover on the way home. Awakening my legs from almost five hours of painful inactivity, I emerged into the world’s busiest airport and started following the signs to concourse B so I could catch the final flight home.

The signs direct you to an underground train, which circulates between all six concourses. But I noticed in smaller letters that there was also an option to walk the same route. So I followed the arrows:

atlanta_walkway

Atlanta Airport’s secret walking route

I was amazed to find a beautiful carpeted walkway, lined with a museum of Atlanta history. Then another train station with an escalator up to the next concourse, then another walkway, another concourse, and so on. In total, I walked almost a mile underground like this, and encountered exactly one other person walking as I was instead of taking the train.

In the world’s busiest airport, with thousands of people trundling by on the trains every few minutes, we were the only two people with the motivation to spend a few minutes using our own legs to get around.

With all this fresh in my mind, I returned at last to Longmont and reconnected with my 10-year-old boy after an unprecedented amount of time apart.

We spent the first morning going for a walk and having adventures along the way. We walked to a bank machine to deposit some checks and he asked me about the odd facility that had been built up to facilitate banking:

machino_del_bankex

Actual thing somebody thought was a good idea to build, and actual people using it (!?)

Together we figured out the system: there was a little building to house three employees. But there was no walk-up access to these people; you could only communicate to them through microphones and speakers, and send them packages through a system of subterranean vacuum tubes. The tubes terminated in three lanes into which you could drive a car. Then there was a fourth lane equipped with the slightly newer invention of a computerized bank machine, and the fifth option of a walk-up bank machine right in the building itself.

It was almost as if we were looking at a banking setup on Mars, where everything had been designed so that humans could get their business done without ever coming in contact with the planet’s hazardously thin sub-zero atmosphere.

All of this was placed in the center of a considerable sea of asphalt: roughly half an acre of it, enough to fit four spacious detached houses with alley-loaded garages or even an apartment building that could house hundreds of people.

I imagined the construction of this facility: decades ago, a tractor trailer probably showed up towing an 80,000 pound CAT excavator. This thing would have smashed down a few houses or trees or whatever was there in the past, 10-wheeler dump trucks would have taken 100 loads of debris and soil away, and returned with another 100 loads of gravel, asphalt and building materials. Steamrollers and bulldozers and laborers would have toiled for a few months, and at the end of it all this gleaming marvel of modern convenience would have been completed.

A million dollar parking lot, thousands of gallons of Diesel, and a million pounds of trucked in materials, consuming a prime piece of downtown real estate big enough to house a huge number of people. All so a few dozen people a day can spend an extra minute burning gas and sitting on their asses instead of using their legs for those 60 seconds.

Just think for a minute of the enormity of this expenditure for such a tiny marginal benefit, and compare it to one example of a slightly more efficient option:

The bank pays the city a small annual lease fee to keep a tiny bank machine booth in the 21-acre public park just across the street. Bank saves money, city makes money, and people benefit for many decades from less traffic and wasted space.

If we can truly appreciate this contrast, scaled up across billions of people in millions of towns and cities, I think we can sum up concisely the underlying reason for most of our problems these days.

At both the individual and the societal level, we just don’t give even the slightest shit about efficiency. If the market is there, goods get produced. If we vote for something, our representative governments will try to make it happen. If a marketer or a lobbyist can shift the markets or the votes to create demand for their product, you bet that sumbitch’ll do it. And if a 64-ounce cup of cola or a zero-interest loan on a luxury truck is dangled in front of a hungry consumer, you bet he’ll reach out and grab it.

Later that day, we went for another walk to a park near our house, and saw this:

pilot_idiot

Area man demonstrates the level of thought that goes into SUV ownership.

A brand-new Honda Pilot SUV, all $37,000 and 280 horsepower of it, was sitting there idling quietly on a little ridge overlooking the golf course. A single person was sitting inside, swiping at his phone and fiddling with the radio. We walked past in the bright sunshine, enjoying the spectacular fall air and looking at the crisp snowcap that had begun to form on the high mountains to the West.

25 minutes later, after a session on the slides and swings of the park, we walked back on the way home and found the same Honda there, still idling. Lightly poisoning the owner and every other resident of the planet, burning fuel at roughly the rate of 75 living human bodies. All because the owner hadn’t thought of pressing the soft-touch “engine off” button and lowering a few of the power windows to let in the quiet, clean 72-degree air. Or hell, opening the airbag-equipped, side-impact-protected door and stepping out of his Crushing Debt Tank into Nature’s splendor for a moment or two.

Like the Drive-Thru, this is a perfect encapsulation of the amount of thought we currently give to efficiency – both in our personal lives and as a society. Exactly none at all.

If the average Joe Taxpayer or Josephine Consumer were able to prop open one eye even just a tiny bit for just a brief period of time, in order to give the slightest shit about efficiency – meeting goals with minimal waste instead of just sliding along blindly in a chute greased with their own drool, the change we would experience would be absolutely spectacular.

Let’s take the three-headed demon of energy consumption, oil supply and climate change for example. Geologists grimly adjust reserve estimates and scientists chart the retreat of glaciers. Countries fight to add renewable energy sources but all predictions point to insurmountable obstacles. So much science and so many calculations, and yet nobody bothers to state the obvious: We could instantly cut our consumption of everything by at least 75%, just by starting to give only the slightest shit about how much we consumed.

So the succesful oil services businessman who likes 16MPG pick-em-up trucks might still decide to buy one, but maybe he’d also throw down 3 grand for a used Honda Insight so he could enjoy 75MPG travel whenever he’s not hauling something. He’d make roughly a 100% annual return on investment and cut his fuel consumption by more than 75%.

People would just make slight adjustments in how far out in the suburbs they would be willing to live, how big to build their houses and what to do on the weekends. Tiny tweaks to vacation and family planning, brief considerations between steak and chicken.

City planners would just briefly entertain the possibility that at least a tiny percentage of its population will have working legs and thus not use a car for 100% of trips, allowing us to replace 60-foot-wide roadways everywhere and an acre of parking for each building, with 30-footers and a few shared parking spaces and some bike racks.

City footprints would shrink by 75% along with infrastructure spending, commutes would shrink, the 75% of healthcare spending that we currently dump into self-inflicted lifestyle diseases would almost disappear. We would be faced with an enormous surplus of energy, time, money, and awesomeness at the individual, city, and national level. Given a few years of such surpluses, the bounty would spill over into the international and then Earth-wide level.

We would all be ten times richer and with enough spare time and money to help those few who have a bit more trouble getting with the program. We’d live 20 years longer and the cost of medical and education and social security and unemployment insurance and every other band-aid for our current woes would drop to a negligible fraction of our national wealth.

All by just giving the tiniest shit for just a few seconds a day.

Are we willing to at least consider this idea briefly, or should we just keep arguing about how to keep the old system going, because it does not dare to suggest that giving a shit is necessary?

Afterword:

Sure, it’s easy for me to joke about giving a shit, but how would we really implement this in real life? I think we should start by:

  • Recruiting engineer/economist/philosophers rather than salesperson/preacher/tycoons to become our political leaders.
  • Insisting that our government use science rather than ideology when making decisions about things. The best thing you can ever experience is being proven wrong by well-gathered data, and then learning from it.
  • Studying personal happiness rather than retail catalogs and car brochures when trying to improve your lot in life.
  • Immediately giving up all forms of TV and spend that time walking and doing other things outside. How would your life and your health change, if you spent at least 4 hours out of every 24 in the great outdoors?
  • When you live by this example, you automatically pass the values to everyone around you. Whether you notice or not, people are watching you and they will follow.

 

  • Moustaches November 3, 2015, 1:04 pm

    Excellent article MMM! I am disappointed that some of the commenters on this post accused you of being a hater of handicapped people and a hypocrite for riding an airplane. As a reader of all of your MMM posts and a bike commuter, I understand that your target audience is the millions of able bodied, middle class individuals that do not think about how they are wasting their potential to walk/bike which is what the human body was designed to do. And how you don’t think that cars and planes are inherently evil but should be used for intra-city and intra-country travel, but not abused for shorter trips.

    Reply
  • ClaireB November 3, 2015, 1:27 pm

    I have an engineering degree myself, but don’t think a world full of engineering solutions is ideal. Two thoughts come to mind: the negative reaction times of pedestrians in New York:
    http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2015/04/edisonstraat-in-hoogeveen-road-redesign.html

    and desire lines:

    http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2015/04/edisonstraat-in-hoogeveen-road-redesign.html
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desire_path

    We definitely need more input from other types of scientists. But yes, all scientists!

    Reply
  • Jaime November 3, 2015, 1:40 pm

    Just playing Devil’s Advocate here or more accurately I’m a real life mom of 3 young kids. My 2 yr old falls asleep in the car often. And if that happens I can’t shut the car off and if I’m not near my home I might be inside my car, reading a book on my phone while idling in a parking lot. Because taking the risk of shutting off my car and waking him up is not an option for me. For many reasons. So maybe that person parked in the parking lot with their car idling, reading on their phone had a sleeping child in the car. Possibly! Next time check. I do love your point of view about being frugal though. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 3, 2015, 4:53 pm

      Holy shit – people actually idle a car to keep a baby sleeping? This is exactly the mentality that I’m addressing in this article. Besides creating a cloud of carbon monoxide which gets sucked in through the ventilation system and pumped into your baby’s lungs, you are making everyone around you pay the price too.. and reinforcing the nap-during-idle dependency.

      A more efficient way to get the same result might be to grab a recording of soothing white noise (even engine idle noise if needed) and play it back through the car’s audio system. Meanwhile, keep redesigning your lifestyle so you can eventually walk your baby in a stroller and design cars out of the cycle entirely. Our kid probably took less than a dozen car trips in his first year or two of life.

      Reply
    • Matt November 3, 2015, 6:50 pm

      This is really kinda crazy. I have two small kids and completely know what it’s like to *need* them to get their naps, but idling your car so your kid keeps napping is basically like flying across the country to go for a jog. Plus, if you keep doing this, you train your little ones to *only* sleep under totally undisturbed conditions. Have you tried pushing them in strollers to help them sleep? This works for both of mine–they look around, then get sleepy and eventually shut their eyes. They fall asleep and learn to sleep with bits of noise happening in the city around them. You might find that doing something like this makes your kids better sleepers and you a happier parent too!

      Reply
    • Chris November 5, 2015, 7:07 am

      And of course the baby also justifies his decision to buy a 4-wheeled aircraft carrier.

      Reply
  • Derek November 3, 2015, 6:27 pm

    Just to up the craziness, we are traveling through the midwest, and they have drive thru convienience stores! Yep, now you don’t even have to walk for your beer, pop and cigs!

    Reply
  • Tabone November 3, 2015, 7:41 pm

    If engineers ran politics, than the politically minded would become engineers. Thus, the situation would not improve. But it’s a nice idea. Christianity tried giving political power to the clergy. It was a nice idea. Then much of the clergy became horribly corrupted.

    The fatal flaw of this lament, however, is this: “We could instantly cut our consumption of everything by at least 75%, just by starting to give only the slightest shit about how much we consumed.”

    Really? Could I reduce my heating bill 75% by giving ‘the slightest shit’ about it? Let me think… No. There are improvements to be made, of course. But those require time and energy and money to implement. And most of those improvements involve me spending over a day to gain something closer to 1%.

    Could I reduce my hot water usage by 75% merely by giving a ‘slight shit’ about it? Sure – I could cut it by making severe cutbacks in a deliberate attempt – but that’s not casual. That’s a drastic amount of avoiding doing things which I enjoy.

    Power is oozing from this universe in every direction. Oil seeps from the rocks, winds blow, rain falls into great rivers, sunlight drops by everyday like clockwork, and atoms tremble with fissile energy. Peak oil, like fusion, is always 20 years away.

    The idea of everyone giving ‘only the slightest shit’ about what you think is important is ridiculous anyway. Why isn’t your priority curing malaria in Africa? Or preserving civil war era memorials? Or ending dictatorship in North Korea? Or contributing to Wikipedia and open source code? The premise is silly. Getting everyone to care about this one thing is a fool’s errand from the start.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 7, 2015, 8:14 am

      Well said Tabone but I think you might be having a bit of tech trouble.

      See that rectangular box at the top of your screen where it says “mrmoneymustache.com”? That means this is MY website. That means I pay to rent the server so I can type my ideas for improving society in here. So you just typed a comment saying that MY website is completely pointless, into a box on MY website! Since at least 15 million people disagree according to my statistics counter, can you see why that is not an efficient course of action?

      If you have such strongly different ideas, they’d best be expressed on your OWN website, which is easy to set up if you have a few minutes:
      http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/01/17/how-to-start-a-blog/

      It may be a fool’s errand, but my giving of a slight shit does indeed lower my energy bill and general spending by at least 75% in most cases. It also shortened my mandatory working career by -surprise- about the same percentage. If you read the articles I wrote earlier on those subjects you’ll find the data.

      Reply
  • Nick B. November 3, 2015, 7:46 pm

    Great article.

    I find the entire need for a bank branch a bit redundant today. I deposit my rental cheques using my banks app and pay all bills online. It’s been years since I’ve been to a teller for service and don’t understand why banks still build them. I was also able to open my brokerage account without printing a document or going into a building. I can manage all my finances in early retirement from my couch and bike to the beach instead of the bank as I did with my four year old son today. For some reason it appears Canadian have caught onto the cashless society thing a lot earlier than our friends to the south.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 7, 2015, 8:02 am

      No, we have the same technology here.. from what I can tell the users of the physical banks are people from the pre-technology era or younger people who didn’t get the chance to learn about it while growing up (often in a different country). A minority of the population to be sure, but so far the banks still consider it worth the investment to serve them.

      As for why I use the bank machine myself once a month, it’s explained in another comment.

      Reply
    • Lennier November 7, 2015, 10:48 pm

      On the subject of cheques…
      I was at a property seminar recently (don’t start), and the host pointed out the pretty much everyone in America still uses cheques. He said that America has recently stumbled onto this thing called “Bill Pay”. All the Australians in the room laughed, as cheques are now almost unheard of here, and BPay is a default payment option on vast numbers of bills and invoices. We’ve moved onto chip-and-pin, and contactless/tap-n-go/PayWave (honestly, the first time I used TnG I felt like I was living in the future. My MIL is not so keen, because it’s the sign of The Antichrist or something).

      In related news, banks in America have only just announced that due to the inherent insecurity of the magstripe on credit cards, they will no longer cover customers for fraud done via the magstripes (duplicating cards etc).

      Reply
  • Michael November 3, 2015, 9:07 pm

    I feel the same, these are some great ideas. You should check out the documentary “Cowspiracy”, all of our individual choices makes for a huge impact. One person’s willingness to change and example will inspire others.

    Reply
  • Jacob November 3, 2015, 11:25 pm

    I read, “sliding along blindly in a chute greased with their own drool,” hours ago, and I just wanted to thank you for the laugh. That was a hell-of-a piece of writing, Mr. Money Mustache. I too am an engineer, and as I stood there, alone, laughing at the thought of a clueless drool-primed chute rider, I briefly worried that people would think I’d finally cracked. In my business, we call the your drool chute rider a WOMBAT (waste of money, brains and time), and when I see them they’re often covered in actual drool, or something worse. From now on when I see them, I’ll chuckle instead of cringe. And the rest of the article was pretty spot on, too.

    Reply
  • FRA Guy November 4, 2015, 12:07 am

    I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who walks from terminal to terminal in Atlanta. Too many of my fellow travelers use the trains as an opportunity to stare at their screens for another five minutes.

    It’s actually faster for me to bike to my bank than it is to drive. Ditto for the grocery store, the library, and the post office. I’ve logged over 4000 miles on my bike since starting to read your blog and saved over $2000 in short- and long-term operating costs on my car. It’s just too easy…

    Reply
  • Ben November 4, 2015, 7:40 am

    I like the point of this article but I believe the solution is more density, i.e. building towards the sky. That will give you the opportunity to live closer to work/schools/grocery stores and increase the odds that you will not need a car or can utilize car sharing services. When I lived in Arlington Virginia I actually lived in a 17 floor apartment complex that had a bank on the street floor (Complete with a drive-thru!) From there we had options to take the bus, metro, and/or bike to wherever we needed to go. I know zoning issues get in the way, but the footprint of that bank in your article would not be nearly as bad if it had 17 floors of apartments on top of it. This would also create much more housing for people and families who cannot afford or do not want to maintain suburban houses. I love what MMM’s community did in buying up surrounding real estate to preserve it for nature so that all can enjoy it, but the only way to do that and provide enough housing for people is to build upwards.

    Reply
  • dude November 4, 2015, 8:49 am

    Man, I go through the same mental exercise just about every day. I’m not saying I’m the most efficient guy, but some of the simplest things can make a huge difference. I’m ALWAYS after my wife to turn the goddamned lights off in the room she just left. He response, “I’m going back in there.” Yeah, SO WHAT? You’re not in there now! There is a local Dunkin’ Donuis near where I work. I occasionally stop in for a coffee. There are, no exaggeration, sometimes 10-20 cars lined up around the building in the Drive Thru. I walk in and walk our in far, far less time than it takes those people to get their coffee and such while burning gas for no damn reason. See, the fact that all of this is so easy and yet so few people give even the slightest shit about it is why I am deeply pessimistic when it comes to the fate of humanity. I’m optimistic about my own life and the rest of my time on this planet, but beyond that, no way.

    Reply
  • Drew November 4, 2015, 9:20 am

    I wonder if that was about the same timeframe I was slugging it through the underground Atlanta Airport walkway. I took a few pictures/Snaps on my way through because I thought to myself “how many people even know this is here?”

    There are a few airports that have interesting/unique displays along the walking paths vs. a tram/train system. I think one of the cooler ones was when walking though Chicago, but I have been through so many airports at this point it is hard to keep track.

    Reply
    • Drew November 4, 2015, 9:29 am

      And I usually always make it a point to walk or take the stairs in the airport simply because I can, and because I feel unless you are disabled, everyone could use a little extra activity in their life.

      I think that really idea really hits home with me a lot of what I try to do with everything – do I really need to take this extra luxury, or will I be perfectly content without it? When I don’t bike to work I park about a mile away from my building. Parking on the street there is free with no time limit. Parking closer to work necessitates you do one of two options – park in a 2 hour spot and have to move your car to another spot (quite inconvenient at an 8 hour job) or pay to park in one of the two parking garages, either per hour or monthly (at $40 per month) People I work with can’t understand why I would be willing to walk the extra distance every day to and from my car. When I tell them why (free, added exercise etc) the response is “oh I wish I could do that.” I end up just shaking me head any hoping no one asks me about it. They finally stopped asking me how far I bike to work (10 miles each way) so I will gladly keep parking for free and walking a little bit, even in the rain or snow.

      Reply
    • FrugalTravelGal November 6, 2015, 2:06 pm

      The overhead directional signs in the Atlanta airport concourses clearly say “Walkway/Train.” Anyone who takes the train can see that there is a long corridor that could be walked through instead.

      Reply
  • 13 months in ecuador November 4, 2015, 9:24 am

    Glad to hear you had a good time in Ecuador. I’ve been enjoying this country for a bunch of months so far. 13monthsecuador.blogspot.com.

    To make a connection to Ecuador. The people’s idea of efficiency here is a lot different than mine when i lived in the U.S., and has been one of the biggest cultural shifts. They don’t prize the use of every second as i learned to do in the rat race.

    what does it mean to be efficient? I have always equated that to the use of time. Maybe i have always been misguided. Maybe it is more important to be efficient with natural resources than time. Maybe it is more important to be efficient with how we use the outdoors, than getting to a place as quick as possible. Maybe it is most important to use our bodies to get from one place to the next, rather than getting there in a fast moving vehicle.

    Thanks for writing this. It has got my mind thinking – hopefully in a more efficient manner.

    Reply
  • Vicki from NZ November 4, 2015, 11:53 am

    I live in a flat suburban area with wide streets and foot paths, I watch in wonder as people drive their large 4 wheel drives like they are mobility scooters, using them where their legs would otherwise work fine. They drive to the park to walk the dog, they drive to the supermarket then drive home and go for a separate walk down the road to get some ‘exercise’. I bike everywhere with my little ones in a bike trailer. I wish everyone was prepared to do their part and got it.

    Reply
  • Jesse N November 4, 2015, 2:10 pm

    OMG—2 months of reading and I am finally caught up to the present! Looking forward to learning more and being a part of the conversations. Reading the plethora of articles has allowed me to move towards being a larger part of the solution and a smaller part of the problem in terms of my finances, environment, and happiness.

    Reply
  • Little E from NM November 4, 2015, 2:32 pm

    I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was thirty years old, and man, do I miss those days sometimes, because once you are able to jump into a car vs. walk or carpool or take public transportation, it is sooooo hard to make the conscious choice to walk to the gym or the grocery store or the library. And I get it, I really do! It is so awesome to be able to throw all your stuff into the car ( or, I should say, all my stuff into my car!) and not have to worry about it. I still walk a lot of places, but I never learned to ride a bike, so that isn’t an option for me, but I do drive a 2005 Scion XA. I can’t say my choice is the best choice, but when I smell the exhaust from one of the 8 million pick up trucks or hear people who drive Tahoes or Lincoln Navigators bitching about gas prices, I can’t help but feel superior, like I am doing my part to create a more Mustachian world!

    Reply
    • Lynne November 9, 2015, 8:46 pm

      I had to get rid of my car to remove the temptation to drive short distances. It was just too easy. :) Now the easiest thing is to walk, and that’s mostly what I do. (That wasn’t my only reason to go car-free, but it was one.)

      Willpower is a finite resource – I try to structure my life so the easiest choice is usually the healthiest or most frugal one, and then I don’t fall off the wagon in moments of weakness.

      Reply
    • Matt (Semper Fi) December 16, 2016, 2:51 pm

      Hold on a minute, LittleE! Just because you didn’t learn how to ride a bike earlier in life, doesn’t give you an automatic pass to never learn in your lifetime. Riding a bike CAN be an option for you, and it is one of the easiest damned things to learn. And cheap! If you are disabled in some way, then I understand, but if you are of a relatively sound body, you should not write off bicycling.

      Reply
  • thinkmore November 4, 2015, 3:02 pm

    A few things here:
    1) no october post, not cool
    2)for light hearted introduction to city planning, which seems to be a MMM interest look up authors Jane Jacobs and Richard Florida, I don’t agree with all their stuff but it will get you thinking in those terms and can understand the issues better and maybe find more academic work.
    3) for your first two bullet pts(the whole thing about engineers, philosophy; i.e. lets do what makes sense not what is in our short term (but not long term) interest), try being a libertarian. begin by reading stuff from https://mises.org/ TONS of short interesting articles and plenty of longer ones and books

    Reply
  • samantha November 4, 2015, 3:53 pm

    Hey! Just wanted to jump in and mention a biomechanist named Katy Bowman. She blogs at Katysays.com and restorativeexercise.com. I think you would find her work very interesting. She, like you, aims for four hours outdoors every day. And more stuff that (i think) you would enjoy learning about.
    Many thanks from Portland Oregon…
    Samantha

    Reply
  • Marcy November 4, 2015, 4:04 pm

    As a fellow engineer, I’ve noticed how little of the rest of the world is interested in efficiency. My whole life I’ve always been optimising, , increasing efficiency and reducing waste (of time and resources).

    You might find some of the posts at http://granolashotgun.com/ of interest. A really interesting blog that I recently discovered which explores urban design of cities in the US. Sadly, I see us going the same way in Australia in some cases.

    Reply
  • Lance November 4, 2015, 4:32 pm

    I always enjoy when someone pulls up to the park and unloads their bikes to go on a bike ride. Why didn’t you ride your bike to the park? I also know a guy who owns 23 pizza franchises and he won’t lease a building without a drive through. Says he gets 25%+ more business than his stores without the drive through. Has plenty of studies showing that folks are more likely to pick something up than pull up to sit down especially if there are kids in the car.

    Reply
  • Catherine November 4, 2015, 7:31 pm

    I read a lot of comments here about seniors and their restricted movements and how drive-thru’s are helpful to them.
    I still don’t buy it. But it did remind me of an incredible You Tube video about the very topic of getting people out.

    I hope MMM you will share this inspiring idea from a cyclist in Copenhagen. I want to try this in my city after seeing it:
    Cycling without age | Ole Kassow | TEDxCopenhagenSalon

    Reply
  • hdt November 5, 2015, 1:37 am

    The reason the USA is so wasteful is because it can afford to – or at least it still hangs on to habits from when it used to be able to afford to be wasteful. With 5% of the world population, we consume 20% of world resources. It makes me secretly hope that the US become poorer so that it consumes like the rest of the world.

    After the great recession, we’ve come up with Airbnb, Uber, more multi genreational families, fewer multi car households and the sharing economy because we’ve become poorer.

    Reply
  • Bala November 5, 2015, 9:33 am

    What may be obvious for one person may not be so obvious for others. Is it possible that someone more at peace will be able to see many obvious things that may escape us ? Would one be motivated to understand the people without labels like “lazy” ?

    If something so obvious is not being understood by so many people, maybe the reason is not so obvious :-)

    Reply
  • Money Saving November 5, 2015, 10:24 am

    Very well said – your ideas and thoughts are expanding to ever larger scales and vision. MMM for President!

    I think you could make a real change and would be the bitch-slap this country needs. I would definitely vote for you :-)

    Reply
  • Dave November 5, 2015, 12:37 pm

    Another good thought provoking post. If more people would think a bit about the choices they have and then act based on a better choice, huge progress could be made in so many areas. Looking forward to your next post on the climate change. It’s too bad the topic of climate change has become so political and so many people who champion the cause have so little credibility. There is so much we could do to prevent man made climate change if we could just get past the junk science and political bs.

    Reply
  • Syed November 5, 2015, 2:40 pm

    Great post MMM. I have a co-worker who spends every lunch break sitting her her large SUV for 45 minutes with the engine running listening to music and smoking multiple cigarettes. I told her you don’t have to have the engine on to listen to the radio, which she countered by saying “sometimes I need to have the AC on.” Even the slightest adjustment in this strange scenario could produce a very dramatic effect for good.

    Reply
  • Tim November 5, 2015, 3:33 pm

    Read this for a great explanation of “the three-headed demon of energy consumption, oil supply and climate change”

    http://waitbutwhy.com/2015/06/how-tesla-will-change-your-life.html

    Reply
  • KittyFooFoo November 6, 2015, 1:13 pm

    Hi MMM, last night we took public transportation to Costco and used two backpacks and a stroller to drag home 60lbs of groceries and one baby.

    Happy???

    Reply
  • Trombonedadio November 6, 2015, 8:26 pm

    Gotta love those drive-in liquor outlets!

    Reply
  • Jack November 7, 2015, 4:57 am

    Did you notice the signs in the ATL airport stating that the walk between concourses was 5 minutes? I take that as a challenge!

    Reply
  • Jenny November 7, 2015, 12:58 pm

    I love the underground walkways at the Atlanta airport! I’m glad you discovered them. I’ve lived near Atlanta for 21 of my 30 years, and I’ve always had family here even when I lived elsewhere, so I’ve cruised those aisles many times. I fly very little these days, and I miss them.

    However … I’ll be flying out to Denver on Tuesday to visit my sister and I’ll be sure to take the walkways on both ends of the trip in Atlanta. I’m pretty bummed that I’m flying back home on Friday at 4pm … I’ll just miss the Mustachian gathering in Longmont.

    The reason I came by the blog today, though, was to thank you for persistently keeping the thought of ditching my car in my mind. I sold my only car this morning at 10:30am, and I am thrilled to be walking and taking the bus for nearly all of my transportation needs going forward. I’ve been car-free before as an adult and loved it, but for some reason I had a harder time giving the car up this time — it took me almost a year to pull the trigger, and your articles like this one were a big help in pushing me along. So, thanks!

    Reply
  • Mike November 8, 2015, 9:48 am

    Totally agree with this post ! Thought I would add a good news example to the conversation..

    Quite proud of my city Calgary* which is going through a real inner city re-birth with an emphasis on densification with pedestrian and bike friendly neighborhoods. The inner-city community of Inglewood denied a development permit for a Tim Horton’s coffee shop drive-thru because it did not fit with the ethos of their revitalization plans. The community has embraced its somewhat shady past wth a KISS philosophy of “keep it slightly sleazy” rather than go for a sterile ultra-modern vibe.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/welcome-to-inglewood-canadas-greatest-neighbourhood/article22617084/

    *Calgary has more than its fair share of urban sprawl but the times they are a changing.
    Not sure what the US equivalent of Tim Horton’s is, Duncan Donuts maybe. It is a Canadian icon – it was the inspiration for Stan Makita’s donuts in Wayne’s.

    Reply
  • Stache it Away November 8, 2015, 9:39 pm

    Wow! Was at the Atlanta airport this weekend with my wife and 2 year old child. We decided we wanted to stretch our legs and walk instead of using the train. An employee was positioned in the walkway directing people to essentially stop walking and get on the train. As we walked past she warned us twice that it was about a quarter mile to baggage claim so we shouldn’t go that way. A significant chunk of this was escalators as well so it’s not like it was difficult for even our 2 year old.

    We did see more walkers than MMM did though so that was nice.

    Reply
  • chacha1 November 8, 2015, 10:50 pm

    I agree totally about the desirability of giving a shit, but I have to share a reality check on the Honda Insight. :-) I have one; a 2010 that I bought used this summer. In heavy city traffic, it only gets 27.5 mpg. With 50% highway driving it gets 39.5, so I attribute this to the idle auto-stop.

    Now mind you, this is still a decent fuel economy, but it is nowhere near what I expected or what it should be. The technology does exist for a small car to get 75 mpg and they all damned well *should* … but they don’t.

    The problem with hyperbole is that, while it can be highly entertaining, it can tend to deflate otherwise good arguments.

    Reply
    • Dave November 9, 2015, 8:21 am

      The mileage you report for the Insight is not at all typical for that model. There must be a mechanical issue causing your mileage to be so far below the norm that most people experience.

      Reply
      • chacha1 November 9, 2015, 8:24 pm

        Dave, I suspect that most fuel economy estimates are not calculated based on Los Angeles traffic. I *know* the mileage I’m getting is not what they say I should get. However, it is what I am getting, in a well-maintained low-mileage car. The issue is stopping every twenty feet as you inch up the street … mechanical indeed, but nothing to do with the car.

        Reply
  • Nicola November 9, 2015, 4:17 am

    It’s scary how little of a shit most people give about their consumption. I just watched a talk by Ken Robinson (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1A4OGiVK30, skip forward to 10:40) where he says that scientists have estimated that if everyone on Earth consumed at the rate of the average person in Rwanda, the maximum carrying capacity of the Earth would be 15 billion people. If everyone consumed at the rate of the average person in North America, the maximum carrying capacity goes down to only 1,2 billion people. Oh dear. Looks like the only reason we’re all still alive is that those frugal Rwandans don’t love their SUVs quite as much as you guys over in the US and Canada. Not that us Europeans are much better unfortunately. Here’s the link to the program with the research that Ken mentions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oi9z1aZXBQ

    Reply
  • Chris Green November 11, 2015, 10:11 am

    MMM,

    I’m the structural engineer. Looking forward to ‘hopefully’ meeting up at Wibby on Friday, haven’t been there yet. We are expecting our first child any day now, so that might prevent me from going. Would love to be able to meet up again though!

    Chris

    Reply
  • Paul November 11, 2015, 10:59 am

    To be fair to the drive-thru, it was an awkward interim, when people still thought of financial transactions as something physical rather than virtual. Sort of like cassette tapes before CDs (before .mp3…), sometimes technology gets clunky and inefficient before it moves on to something better than any of its predecessors.

    Reply
    • T.Lord November 11, 2015, 4:55 pm

      That’s the kind of comment that makes me look for a “like button” or a thumbs-up icon.

      (Also, I am far more of a fan of drive throughs than MMM seems to be, but Hey, aesthetics vary. The way they work vs. the way they *could* work matters, too; the terrible triage of drive-throughs isn’t the best they could be, by a long shot. I wish in all fast-food contexts, in fact in many contexts where people are queuing, and then hit a bottleneck at the *front* of the line, that employees would circulate with clipboards, or tablets, and start taking orders and payment as possible deep *into* the line.)

      Reply
      • T.Lord November 11, 2015, 5:32 pm

        (Or, needless to say, robots, kiosks, cell-phone-app ordering … whatever changes the paradigm from “wait in a line behind people, some of whom don’t know what they want, or are about to find out that their preferred order is out of stock …”)

        Reply
  • Chris in Calgary November 11, 2015, 11:31 pm

    Enjoyed your post. But let’s take it one step at a time, shall we? Cutting 75% of our expenditures at once would upend the economy, panic the people in charge, and very well may lead to World Wars III, IV, and V in short order. (75% may be overboard, especially for people like me who live in colder climes.)

    Economic change tends to have to happen slowly — even if it seems fast, it’s because such huge changes are taking place slowly.

    Introduce all that efficiency over the timespan of about 50 years, and we should do all right with it.

    Reply
  • Peter November 12, 2015, 11:14 am

    Let’s not forget another “drive thru” which is regularly used by the idle entitled class – the car wash! These huge machines use up vast amounts of energy to achieve something that can be done at home with a bucket of water, a sponge and some good old fashioned elbow grease!

    Some genius at laziness incorporated has now invented the wash tunnel. That’s right folks, you no longer need to “drive thru” the car wash, you park on a conveyor belt which whisks you on a magical mystery tour of brushes and sprays without you having to do anything at all except wait to be spat out of the other side!

    Washing the car was a much loved chore growing up and gave me the sense of a job well done (as well as some much needed pocket money) these machines and the clowns that are using them are robbing us of those simple pleasures!

    Reply
  • Kevin Beavers November 12, 2015, 2:10 pm

    I use simple.com which is an online-only bank.

    Reply
  • Eliza November 12, 2015, 10:57 pm

    Our city had an engineer as Lord Mayor for quite a few years. As you can imagine, there were plenty of infrastructure projects started particularly during his second term. Overall though, he was quite car centric and his major legacy is a number of tunnels that haven’t fared so well. Fared is about right, because apparently the good citizens of this city don’t like paying tolls and after the free period ended, most commuters went back to above ground road transportation.

    At the end of the day, most of us act in accordance with our personal beliefs, logical or illogical as they may seem to the outside world.

    I think the same applies to politicians. Yes, infrastructure should totally be built in terms of actual need and priority and it infuriates me that it isn’t. But once you mix prevailing societal attitudes (why walk when you can drive?) with the significant pressure developers exert on urban planning departments to maximise their profits, along with the type of projects that banks will finance (think conservative) it must be so difficult to balance all the competing interests and actually get something done that I sometimes can’t believe people volunteer for public life!

    Reply
  • Frugalfisherman10 December 2, 2015, 2:36 pm

    Hey! Glad you highlighted the walking “tour”/area at Hartsfield-Jackson. I love that walking option and I’ve taken a few friends that didn’t know about it that way recently

    Reply
  • Doug December 3, 2015, 10:02 am

    Newsflash, an addition to my comment dated November 2 at 10:19 pm. On the front page of today’s Globe and Mail there’s an article titled: Ontarians overpaying for electricity. I’ll type in a quote from this article. “The Liberal government has repeatedly overruled expert advice – and even tore up two long term plans from the Ontario Power Authority for the electricity system – in favour of political decisions that drove up power costs for consumers, the report says”. As I said before that’s what you get when you put the salespeople, rather than engineering and technical people who actually know what the hell is really going on, in charge of anything important.

    Reply
    • Elaine April 24, 2016, 6:18 pm

      The Liberal government in Ontario will do whatever it wants whenever it wants. It is so totally corrupt and is destroying this province. We now have the highest hydro rates, which are still rising, and highest debt ratio in all of North America. And they really couldn’t care less. The latest thing is that they’re counting windmills as households for the purposes of billing police protection in some communities (billing for the OPP is done on the basis of number of households). If that’s the way you run simple things, how can you possibly run more complicated things?

      Reply
      • bh April 24, 2016, 6:38 pm

        totally agree. and now we have another liberal at the federal level taking away the 10k limit for tfsa because he claims only the rich can save $10k dollars per year. incompetent fools both trudeau and wynn.

        Reply
  • Denise December 17, 2015, 3:59 pm

    This article reminds me of a story my dad likes to tell about a young son of a farmer who noticed their neighbor was a rich man. The young man went over to the rich man’s house, and the rich man invited him inside to sit in the living room. When asked the purpose of his visit, the young man said he wanted to know how the rich man amassed his fortune. The rich man said he’d be happy to tell him, and that it was a long story… as he said this he stood up and turned off the light. The young man then stood up, bowed, and said thank you, I understand. Years later, that young man was also rich.

    Reply
  • purplearcanist December 23, 2015, 5:57 pm

    First time posting on the blog. Came back to visit after a few-month hiatus.
    1. First of all, I should have walked through the whole airport to find that museum! The only thing is relatives were waiting for me. Next time I go there, I will make a point to do that.
    2. You should consider that you might be more resilient to bike theft because of your environment. You have observant friends, you take care of your house, etc. You don’t leave your bike somewhere for too long (criminals will be inclined towards bikes that nobody will miss). Also you are smart enough not to put your bike in shady places. I just have to say that you have to be more careful about bikes in Boulder, especially around CU campus.

    I just have to facepalm at these suggestions:

    “Recruiting engineer/economist/philosophers rather than salesperson/preacher/tycoons to become our political leaders.”

    Leads to disaster when taken literally, because politics is all about Negotiation/Sales/Compromise, skill-sets which don’t make one a successful engineer/economist/philosopher. Economist leaders I want to stay away from, if anything economists are a scourge on the political world and are used to provide intellectual backing for disastrous policies, such as government needs to spend more to improve the economy. A similar thing for philosophers providing similar intellectual backing. Perhaps you mean for the right people to get into that role, but I think this requires a better system. As for taking an engineering approach, the problem is that there is no easy systemic way to see what works by testing it, as there are so many factors.

    “Insisting that our government use science rather than ideology when making decisions about things. The best thing you can ever experience is being proven wrong by well-gathered data, and then learning from it.”

    I can see what you are getting at, but problematic suggestion there. Science is often used when making political decisions, but it is often created to fit the ideology. What is needed is a better system.

    Reply
  • Mr I. Accountant March 17, 2016, 4:03 am

    Wow, this drive through banking concept is truly bizarre. Don’t people in the US realise that if they just stop using cheques (like every other modern country) and start using electronic transfers (like every other modern country) they won’t need drive through cheque deposit sites (like every other modern country).

    Cheques belong with fax machines – on the scrap heap with other superseded tools that are extremely inefficient and a waste of everyone’s time. The replacement technology has been available (and widely used) for so long that it’s completely proven, and people just need a push to make the change. Or maybe people just need to say that they no longer accept cheques (like many government organisations in Australia)?

    Reply
  • Sean Gibb June 8, 2017, 7:29 am

    ” When you live by this example, you automatically pass the values on to those around you . ” This is very true. The biggest influence on people is from their friends, and family, who lead by example. Do ! don’t just preach. Of course the message needs to be heard, so the more people preaching this message of efficiency, and dare I say of rationality and of science, the better. People ! Get out there and lead. It is a good message Mr. Money Mustache. We need more people preaching and teaching this, instead of consumerism, divisiveness, and some of the anti-science stuff I see on social media.

    Reply
  • David October 10, 2018, 7:38 pm

    Reply

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